Indiana fights but falls to Michigan State

The Hoosiers showed the intensity missing from their recent losses on the road, but again could not come up with a win on the road.

The Indiana Hoosiers (14-5, 4-3 Big Ten) showed improvement in effort and intensity but failed to overcome Michigan State (11-8, 3-4), as the Spartans broke out of their worst slump in six seasons. Indiana's 61-54 loss marks their second consecutive road loss, following their dismal performance at Purdue on Saturday. With A.J. Moye off the roster with bronchitis and a rusty Bracey Wright struggling from the field, the Hoosiers were outplayed down the stretch of the second half. Kyle Hornsby's three-pointer with 1:12 left marked Indiana's only field goal in the last seven minutes of regulation.

The two teams were even at 27 at the start of the second half and the game was close throughout. As the second half progressed, the Spartan's were sparked by strong performances from guards Alan Anderson and Calvin Torbert who scored 12 points apiece. Aloysius Anogonye added 11 points, and senior forward Adam Ballinger clinched the victory with a three-point field goal that put Michigan State up 5 points with 29 seconds to play.

Jeff Newton and George Leach led Indiana with 14 and 15 points apiece. Leach was heavily criticized for his effort and overall play at Purdue and was subsequently on the bench to start the game. Tuesday night, he delivered his best offensive performance of the season. Most of Newton's 14 points came from medium range jump shots and free throws while Leach was aggressive and effective in the post.

Indiana's perimeter game was less than impressive. The Hoosiers continued with their recent trend of struggling behind the arc, turning in a 4-for-15 performance. There was little penetration by IU's guards who were too reluctant to get into the heart of Michigan State's man to man defense.

The Indiana backcourt saw the return of freshman sensation Bracey Wright. Wright was on the floor for 29 minutes, in which he went 1-for-6 from the field for 4 points. He scored far under his average of over 19 points a came in part because he suffered cramps to his calves. Also, he did not have the lift in his legs he needs to shoot well from the perimeter.

As poor as the Indiana offense looked over stretches of the second half, it was their interior defense, which cost them the game. Indiana struggled to stay in the game as Michigan State converted on almost every possession they had in the final 5 minutes of the game. Sean Kline fouled out for the Hoosiers and George Leach was in foul trouble for much of the second half, finishing with four personal fouls.

With consecutive road losses behind them, the Hoosiers hope to reverse their recent skid as they travel to Louisville on Saturday and then finish off their road trip next Wednesday at Northwestern. With a healthy Wright returning to prominence, IU is a whole different team. If the Hoosiers can step up their defensive effort and play with consistency, they will be right in the mix as they start the second half of the season. IU has a chance to avenge Tuesday's loss at home against Michigan State on February 8.

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